Thursday, January 26, 2012


"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Berthold Auerbach

i began playing the piano so long ago i don't remember much about it, other than the fact that my dad tried to teach me at first and i had to sit on a phone book so i could reach the keyboard.  i think i was four or five.  my dad worked and didn't have much time to teach me (and i had a hard time listening to him), so i began taking from a woman in our neighborhood...then a more professional teacher...then so on until the age of 16 when i stopped taking lessons.

once i was competent enough to sight read most of what i wanted to play, or pick through more difficult songs, i really fell in love with the piano.  it became a sanctuary, a haven for me when life was tumultuous.  it was one of few things that i could lose myself in and forget life for just a few moments.  i can actually remember a few times i got up in the middle of the night to play, using the quiet pedal and tapping the keys as softly as i could so i didn't disturb anyone.  as far as i know no one in my family was aware....which is no mean feat considering my parents' bedroom was not far and i have four siblings.

when i moved out, i went to live with my aunt for a summer.  she did not have a piano.  i missed it.  i went to college, lived in the dorms.  there were a few pianos made available for students studying music and anyone who wanted to play.  they were almost always occupied.  and it was in a tiny little sound-proofed room....acoustics were horrible.  i didn't play often for several years.

shortly after i married, hubby and i purchased a used piano.  it was previously a lab piano at a university and had been well-used.  it had a good sound, though, and was fairly inexpensive.  a small studio upright.  perfect for our small house.  it was a piano, and i was thrilled.  hubby got out his guitar.  we purchased sheet music to our song, and he played the chords on his guitar and i played the piano.  i played tons at first...then less often, as life got busy.  especially when the babies came.  (it's hard to play the piano with a baby....i even attempted strapping little buddy in the carrier to my chest to play.  i still play with a child on my lap, vying for the keys as they pound in front of me.  those songs don't sound very pretty, i promise.)

in february of 2010, i started teaching piano lessons.  i loved it.  i loved watching my students learn, and the ones who practiced and began to love it.  it was hard on my family though.  living in an apartment, having to stay shut in a single room so they wouldn't disturb the lessons.  and having students who didn't show.  it was difficult.  eventually i had to stop teaching.  i was working, plus taking care of my family, and i couldn't teach piano as well.  the money was very little and not steady because of students being inconsistent.  i played a little more while i taught.

lately i've been drawn to the piano more than usual.  maybe it's because i'm feeling better.  i'm finding even more joy in something that has always been a good thing for me.  a few months ago i purchased two new piano books--library of piano classics and piano classics 2.  two of the best purchases i have ever made.  it is exciting to go through the pages and find new songs to play, and some i learned long ago.  several are far beyond my skills as an amateur pianist, but there are a good number within my grasp.  i discovered a beautiful and haunting nocturne by chopin, one i hadn't heard before.  i am learning to play it.  accuracy is coming along although i need to work on the tempo.

for a music class two semesters ago, i had to write a paper on a composer and dissect several of his or her compositions.  i chose to study camille saint-saens, a french composer in the early 1900s.  i knew very little of him, but loved his romantic melodies.  i was excited to find his piece "the swan" in the books, and have been working on it as well.

and..."clair de lune," one of my favorites, and difficult for me.  it is one that will take hours of practice to learn.  very hard to do when i only get twenty minutes here and there to play.

then, another i've loved to play lately, the waltz "the beautiful blue danube."  this is a fun one, and relatively easy for me to play.

i'd also love to learn to play this nocturne, another by chopin. 

i am drawn to these nocturnes....they express my feeling so well, so much better than i can in words or gestures.  in some ways, even better than art.  art can sometimes be frustrating...the finished result rarely ends up what is envisioned in my head.  music, however, has already been written for me.  it is left to me to learn and practice the mechanics of it in order to produce the desired result, but not the creation of it.  both art and music serve their purposes well for me and my ability to express myself.

i hope you will take the time to listen to these pieces.  classical music, especially piano music, has a very calming effect on me, and brings such joy to me.  i hope that these songs will do the same for you.

i believe everyone has a means of expression.  using the work of others, like with music: singing, playing an instrument, or even listening to a song that speaks to you. writing, or reading, or acting, or creating visual arts, or sewing, or whatever it is.  an escape...or a way to speak.

how do you express yourself?  why does that particular method work for you?

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